Last week's news contained a couple of nuggets that stand conventional wisdom on its head.
Among the things everybody knows is that Democrats, being the party of the little people, raise money in small contributions, whereas Republicans, being the party of fat cats, raise funds in huge basketfuls from wealthy corporate types. At least, that's the way the world is usually portrayed by the "Today Show," The New York Times and the Democratic Party.
So it's of more than passing interest to see the results of a study conducted by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The study, which tracked 1.6 million contributions to House and Senate races, the two political parties and political action committees during the 2002 election season, found that Republicans raised far more from small donors than did the Democrats. As Ronald Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times reports, "Democrats raised as much or more than Republicans in 2002 only among the largest donors. Democrats attracted 92 percent of the money from the 23 donors who contributed at least $1 million. ... By contrast, Republicans dominated among smaller and mid-sized donors. The GOP garnered 64 percent of the total contributions from those who gave less than $200 and 61 percent from those who donated between $200 and $999."
This is interesting not only because it shatters the popular misconception about the two parties but also for the light it sheds on the upcoming election year. The recently enacted McCain-Feingold campaign finance law bans soft money -- precisely the large contributions that have been so useful to Democrats. Sixty percent of the Democratic National Committee's money came from soft money, whereas the Republican National Committee raised only 40 percent of its funds from soft money.
I've always believed that McCain Feingold is bad public policy and a clear violation of the First Amendment. But how must the liberal reformers feel, who believed so fervently that the new law would increase the influence of Democrats and diminish that of Republicans?